Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ideas Into Reality: I-Shovel 1st Domestic Robot Shovel

I have been saying this for some time now, let your imagination guide your ideas and then make them come to life. Here is another example on how a group of people imagined, designed and created a unique useful domestic robot called the "I-Shovel". At the moment this is just a prototype but the potential is huge of becoming the Roomba of robotic snow shovels! The design is simple, economical and effective. There are some things that I-Shovel can improve on or get added later on its final production version like: auto charging, better use of robotic navigation (IR, Sonar, Optics, etc.), more powerful DC motors, a method to distribute freezing point depressors (Sodium Chloride (Salt) or Magnesium Chloride) to help remove snow/ice, a better A.I., the use of anti corrosive materials for the robot chassis, self protection mechanisms, etc. Currently the I-Shovel prototype is able to detect accumulation of snow and is able to automatically clear your driveway and/or sidewalks while staying within the pre-set perimeter. This domestic robot uses a shovel since it is one method of removing snow that uses a minimal amount of energy while still being effective and economical to take care of the job.

I-Shovel proves that things always happen twice, once in your mind and another in what we call reality. I-Shovel is looking for people that are interested in joining them and/or want to invest into this innovative domestic robot. Check out the video to get a better sense on how I-Shovel works and how it can inspire you to make your own robot to solve a problem or help out at home!


Amateur Roboticist #5 said...

Nicely done. Now that's a domestic robot!

Nikolai Tesla said...

You are correct, the nice thing about it is that it can really help out people who live in cold areas of this planet. They kept it simple but yet very effective, similar to the Roomba.

Amateur Roboticist #5 said...

Outdoor robots are a greater challenge than their indoor counterparts. Take notes from the iRobot Dirt Dog and Looj experience.

I just read that the Dirt Dog is basically a pared down version of the Roomba - iRobot (for reasons that baffle me) gave it a lower grade rechargeable battery and removed some of the software that prevents a Roomba vac from getting stuck in corners; it is not recommended to work on wet surfaces (so, it is not a true shop vac.) Its cliff sensors get confused when the floor has a checker board pattern.

The Looj (version one) gets stuck - a lot; which means the user has to climb back up the ladder and dislodge it; it has a tendency to flip (which is addressed in version 2); the antennae gets caught on various parts of the gutter (version two has an internal antennae.) And it is messy - it just throws all the debris out of the gutter and you have to clean up after it.

All robots exposed to the outdoors require more frequent maintenance.

The first thing that comes to mind when I viewed the i-Shovel is that you need to make absolutely sure that it does not run off the driveway and into the street ... and into oncoming cars!

You should address any scenarios where i-Shovel may become stuck and have appropriate responses for them.

Keep in mind 'use cases' like: How will it be stored when not in use; how does it get to its work area (can it be carried?) What about maintenance and spare parts?

Otherwise, it is a great concept.

Nikolai Tesla said...

In some sense outdoor robots do not have a bigger challenge compared to indoor robots. One of the main difference is that outdoor robots do not interact as much with humans and by doing so it leaves them only against the elements which is an engineering problem that has solutions.

I do agree with your observation with the iRobot DirtDog (I own one) and the Looj (both versions). iRobot got lazy with both of these robots. The Looj is just a remote controlled TOY, no automation and it does its "job" half a**ed! The DirtDog is just a basic Roomba without the vac, it does clean but it can not handle the harsh conditions of an average shop, garage or even your deck without resulting to a premature death.

Successful outdoor robots that you need to check out which deal with some if not all of your concerns are Friendly Robotics Robomow, Husqvarna Husqvarna,Zucchetti Lawnbott and going to very extremes you have JPL's Mars Rovers!

Amateur Roboticist #5 said...

Until now, I was not aware of the Zucchetti.

However, I feel that I need to explain what I mean by successful outdoor/commercial robots - I think we can agree that the Dirt Dog and Looj do not fall into that category. (In fact, I do not think the Roomba is a successful indoor robot, having owned one myself but, that's another topic.)

To me, a successful outdoor robot is the type that you 'fire and forget.' That is, you can set it off and be completely confident that it does the job it was designed to do. This is not the case with any Roomba to date; at some point it makes some annoying chime requiring you to attend to it.

Having said that, I recognize the trade off between sophistication and simplicity (the Mars Rover is at one end of the spectrum and the Looj at the other end.) And let's not forget the cost and "price point."

In terms of indoor vacuums, the Husqvarna has got to command a higher price because of its use of SLAM technology (i.e., sophistication). That is, it is not going to be in every household because of the price barrier - I think this is the reason why Dyson abandoned it's robotic vacuum cleaner: they could not balance sophistication (a smarter robot) with a price that would be profitable to Dyson and appealing to consumers.

Success - to me - means high market penetration; a robot in EVERY household.

It only takes one mishap to kill success in the market; if one Friendly Robotics mower were to stray off into the street and cause a fatal car crash ...

Nikolai Tesla said...

I do agree as well that a successful robot needs to be that type that you set and forget while keeping it affordable to the average consumer. The floor cleaning robot that gets close to accomplishing it is the Karcher RC3000. I say close since the price is too high for the average consumer. iRobot could pull out something similar if they integrated a similar base as the Karcher.

Also, keep in mind that Friendly Robotics lawn mower robots have been out and cutting lawns successfully for many years without mishaps. They have safety mechanisms to avoid such problems.

At the moment my Roomba, DirtDog and Scooba take care of my floors well enough but I do wish autonomy for all of them.